How to Trade in the Present Moment

How to Trade in the Present Moment

Written by Katie Gomez

We all remember the days when we were kids; no responsibility, not a care in the world about money or preparing for the future, only how to enjoy every moment by living in the present. The present is not a luxury reserved for kids, yet adults spend most of their time either in the past or future, trying to control what they cannot. The longing for the way things used to be and the paranoia of what lies ahead always seems to overshadow the present moment, even the most joyous ones. 

Today, the present moment is more easily missed than ever before. The evolution of technology and the omniscient force of the internet, makes it easy to escape with the click of a button. Millennials and GenZ struggle with the insatiable need to escape when things get overwhelming. Furthermore, the inability to stay in the moment and problem-solve is detrimental to their financial success. If every investor ran away when things in the market got scary, uncomfortable, or stressful, they would be left with nothing. Learning how to get comfortable with the uncomfortable is something we all must learn as human beings if we ever hope to grow and elevate ourselves, especially in the financial sector. 

The present moment is often an uncomfortable place. The present is where we think critically, regulate emotions, confront our issues, and strive to find solutions. Ignoring it and scrolling through Tiktok seems easier, huh? However, the more we push away things that scare us, the more we push ourselves away from the growth and lessons behind them. Whether you are running from a mistake you made trading in the past or frighteningly awaiting a future market collapse, you remain paralyzed in a version of reality that’s not real. In reality, the present moment is waiting for you to take action, turn past mistakes into lessons learned and trust that the future is not worth waiting for and is never guaranteed. 

The process of investing has a lot to do with the mind. The stock market is a stress-inducing machine. It provokes overwhelming feelings of fear in its users. These emotions are unpredictable and uncontrollable and send us into a state of discomfort. That discomfort pressurizes our fight-or-flight reaction. However, the thought of losing money is not a physical threat of bodily harm. Instead, our minds fight the past as it feels familiar and safe or fly off to the future to escape and distract ourselves from the pain of the present. So how do you stop escaping to the past or future? 

Practicing embodiment. The only way to calm the mind and stop reenacting old unconscious patterns of flight or fight is through the breath. For those of you unaware of breathwork and its many benefits, I recommend giving it a try. The simplest way to return to the present moment is to return to your body, which cannot leave the present, unlike the mind. 

Although breathing sounds like an oversimplified or naive solution to break these escapist patterns, it is proven highly effective. Box breathing is the most common form of breathwork that is proven beneficial to reduce stress and anxiety. Also known as square breathing, this deep breathing exercise is known to help calm the mind from spiraling in times of fight or flight by stimulating the vagus nerve.

Box breathing is one of the easiest and quickest forms of breathwork. It’s a technique that anyone can practice to reduce stress, re-center their focus, gain better lung capacity/circulation, improve mental concentration, and practice embodiment to stay in the present moment. 

Reduce Anxiety with Box Breathing | Katie Sammann Psychotherapy

It can help you cope with feelings of panic and stress when feeling overwhelmed by controlling hyperventilation, refocusing the mind to the present, enhancing decision-making skills, improving mood, and even lowering blood pressure and decreasing cortisol (the stress hormone), which is highly prevalent for those working in the market. 

How to Practice Box Breathing 

  • Step 1: Breathe in, counting to four slowly. Feel the air enter your lungs.
  • Step 2: Hold your breath for 4 seconds. Try to avoid inhaling or exhaling for 4 seconds.
  • Step 3: Slowly exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds.
  • Step 4: Repeat steps 1 to 3 until you feel re-centered.

Repeat this exercise as many times as you can. Thirty seconds of deep breathing will help you feel more relaxed and in control. 

Breathing itself is helpful to the body, but the process of counting is also beneficial to the mind, giving it a task to refocus attention to the present moment from whatever panic-inducing situation you are dealing with. That said, it would be in your best interest as a trader to be proactive and practice this breathwork before the market even opens. This way, when something inevitably stresses you out or triggers that desire to escape, you have already taken the precautions to handle it better.

In conclusion, we all experience uncomfortable feelings such as stress, anxiety, or fear, and so we learn to develop ways to cope with them. However, one of the worst things you can do is run away from them. If you can better learn to deal with these uncomfortable feelings moment to moment, you’ll find yourself wanting to escape less and less. Things move incredibly fast in the market—you can truly blink and miss opportunities. Therefore, practicing embodiment through techniques like box breathing can prove extremely beneficial not just to your physical or mental well-being but your financial well-being as well.